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Just what is chammak challo?

Host of nationalities find title track of much-anticipated Bollywood blockbuster Ra.One attractive

The song Chammak Challo sung by Akon has taken Dubai by storm
Image Credit: Supplied
The song Chammak Challo sung by Akon (inset) for Ra.One starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor, has taken Dubai by storm.

Dubai: East is East and West is West and ne'er the twain shall meet. Really? Back then, maybe. Things change, Mr Kipling. And, shockingly enough, that change has been brought about by American singer Akon when he lent his vocals to the title track of the much-anticipated Bollywood blockbuster Ra.One, starring Shah Rukh Khan.

Belting out perfectly pronounced Hindi words, Tu Meri Chammak Challo (You are my Chamak Challo) and Wanna Be My Chammak Challo, Akon ignited the fires of curiosity. So what exactly is a ‘chammak challo'? Hindi purists say it's slang used to talk about a flashy girl who walks with a jingling sound; it's not a word that would be used in the purest sense of the language.

But now that Akon's riding the airwaves with Chammak Challo, it's become a dance staple here in Dubai, with the city's non-Indian expats singing along to the words.

Loved by all

"When I first heard the song, I had no idea what it meant," says Charlie Petworth, an American engineer. "But having danced to it time and again at the local night clubs, mouthing out the words to whoever I'm dancing with, I've become comfortable enough to use it in conversation." "To me, chammak challo could mean anything from hot girl to babe, lover, wife and girlfriend," says Chantelle Ellie, a French university student.

Sheena K., host of Radio 1's The Sheena Show, from 10am to 1pm, says she'd translate chammak challo to mean ‘my fun girl' or ‘the woman I'm chasing'. "Regardless of the specific meaning of the word, it's certainly a term that's becoming increasingly popular. People sing along to it all the time without even knowing what it means! I've heard the song played on many a night out and, personally, I absolutely love it. I can't help but dance every time I hear it."

Her colleague Nick Robinson says they often get caller requests for the song on their Fusion Show and Weekend Request Show. "I've never heard the word before, but now that Akon's been singing about a chammak challo, I'd translate it to mean ‘hot chick'," he says.

Jong, a Filipino salesman has heard the song play repeatedly on an English radio station from Dubai. "Hats off to this ‘Akonic' song. Based on his lyrics, I would translate Chamak Challo to mean ‘love of my life', or ‘lifetime partner'." With tongue-in-cheek fusion lyrics such as "Tu meri chammak challo (you're my chammak challo); Teri picture ka mein hero (I'm the hero of your movies); Give it to me girl mujhko de do (give it to me); You can be my chammak challo", it's easy to see why a host of nationalities would find this tune attractive.

British expat Jon Sharp says Chammak Challo can be the new ‘boo'. "It's like when Jamaican and African-American singers first started using the words shawty and boo in their songs. From no one knowing them to the words becoming part of everyday conversation, it's proof that music has power to cross boundaries. I have no doubt Chammak Challo will be the next word to mean girlfriend."